BMW’s new M6 gets first GTLM, GTD podiums at Sebring

Photo courtesy of IMSA

It wasn’t a win, but it was still a very good day at the office Saturday for BMW – which secured the first podiums for its new M6 GTLM and M6 GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes.

A double runner-up finish saw the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM in second in GTLM with polesitter Bill Auberlen joined by Dirk Werner and Bruno Spengler.

Meanwhile the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 came up a hard-luck second in GTD, Jens Klingmann losing the lead late but still able to bring home a great result co-driving with Ashley Freiberg and Bret Curtis.

The No. 25 BMW incurred an early race penalty of stop-and-hold plus two minutes for work in a closed pit and exiting the pit lane with the red light on. A later over boost penalty was their second crushing blow, an in-race penalty.

They fought back but were unable to overtake the race-winning No. 4 Corvette C7.R.

“I believe the M6 GTLM was the car to beat today, but we didn’t help ourselves to the win,” Auberlen said. “We had two penalties early on, but fought our way back up to the lead. An over boost penalty near the end of the race required another drive through the pits and, ultimately, we fell short, but this should not be considered anything close to a disappointing day for us.”

The rebuilt No. 100 BMW finished sixth in GTLM with Lucas Luhr, John Edwards and Kuno Wittmer.

Both of Turner’s M6 GT3s had a shot in GTD thanks to a typically brilliant Will Turner/Don Salama strategy special to stay out and hope for a caution to extend fuel mileage. Once the final caution fell inside of 20 minutes, the podium chances were secured.

Alas, Klingmann lost out late to Alessandro Balzan’s No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 but still hung on for second – a needed bounce back for that car after a violation at Daytona dropped the No. 96 to 22nd and last in class for a driver exceeding the maximum drive time.

“It was really tough and we didn’t know what to expect, but we saw in practice and qualifying that we had a strong car for this weekend,” Klingmann said. “We have worked on getting there. The race was tough and it was difficult to keep the car on track when it was pouring down.

“I drove the last three hours and our big goal was to stay on the lead lap, which I achieved. Then it was just maximum attack. We are still missing a little, so I couldn’t defend P1 in the last ten minutes, but we are happy with P2. For the new car, if you can make it on this track I am really positive for the short races.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.